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A Personal Touch

December 17, 2020 | Bogumil Baranowski
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In this increasingly transactional, impersonal, fast-paced world, as an investment practice, we aspire to maintain our most significant advantage: a personal touch. This year has been full of surprises. It took Megan and me on a journey. Since we left the city comforts in the early weeks of the pandemic, we have stayed in the woods most of the year and in a quaint fishing town most recently. We got closer to several small local businesses on our path, and we stayed in touch with others that served us well in the past. We realized that what sets them apart from all the others is the personal touch they offer day in and day out.

Earlier this year, around mid-May, Megan and I tried to find a pair of comfortable hiking shoes. For years, our city apartment living required a few-mile walk every day to work and back. Usually, our only incline was running up the stairs from the subway, which is several floors. Still, nothing compared to the Appalachian Trail hikes that we started to explore regularly this spring. It was no surprise that our feet needed some care and love. After a little bit of research, we found a brand and the shoes we liked. Online delivery was not an option. Our cabin in the woods didn’t really have an address. More so, Megan and I wanted to find a way to help out a local business, a mom-and-pop kind of store. We found one. It was a 45-minute drive to a pretty Pennsylvania town. We wore masks. The salesperson did, too. We did a curbside pick-up. We got our shoes and drove away. A lot can get lost in interaction with others when both parties wear masks covering the entire face except for the eyes. We tried to smile with our eyes and say thank you, but that’s as much as we could communicate. When we got home, we opened the boxes, and we found a little surprise, a small handwritten note saying thank you for your support! That’s the kind of personal touch that makes me want to come back.

Recently, I have experienced a certain discomfort between my teeth – an irritated gum. With the COVID pandemic still in full swing, I had my reservations about going to a local dentist office nearby. I reached out to my trusted dentist back home in the New York area. Megan and I love going to see him. I grew up visiting the same dentist since I was a kid, but now that I live a world away, I had to find someone closer to my New York home. Dr. T, as we call him, has been a real blessing. His whole staff, Hoosh, Pam, and Sue share the same values and culture and offer a personal touch. As you probably know, dentist office visits can be stressful.  They all always make us feel at home and put us at ease. My first reaction was to reach out to Dr. T and run it by him with my little recent discomfort. Yet again, he was able to address the issue and give me some advice, and most of all, some peace of mind. It wasn’t the only time he came to our rescue this year; we drove up to his office for a quick pick-up in spring, and he shipped us some much-needed goodies to our post office in North Georgia this summer. There are thousands of dentists in the New York area, but to us, there is only one Dr. T. That’s the kind of personal touch that makes a world of difference, especially in a year like this one.

Megan and I had the same experience at a nearby surf school. We’ve had a dream of picking up surfing for a while now. We both love the ocean. Whenever we had a chance, we’d admire surfers from afar—especially those in cold waters. We’d watch them paddle out, stand up, and catch some magnificent waves. It always looked like a very intimidating sport with a steep learning curve and a big number of unglamorous falls before reaching any proficiency level. We came across two surf schools in our current area, and possibly more if we searched further. We asked around, we did a bit of research, and we immediately knew there is only one school we should consider. We were right. The owner, Johannes, has a real passion for teaching. He told us that: “the best surfer is the surfer that’s having the most fun.” Johannes, and his two instructors, Randy, and Brian, made us feel like a part of a family and took care of us as we embarked on this new journey. There is no surfing session when we don’t come back with big smiles (and some bruises). As we walk to drop off the boards, we see the owner: Johannes beaming from afar, saying: “How was it!?” That’s the kind of personal touch that turned us into happy and loyal surfers and customers. Needless to say, we’ve been spreading the good word about their school all around.

In my life, I realize how out of many businesses; we eventually start to patronize a few. Usually really one from each category. One investment advisor, one dentist, one accountant, one sporting goods store, one surf school, flight school, or dive school. There is something unique and special about those practices. I’m always grateful that they are around, that we got to find them, and we can enjoy their services.

Those experiences made me think of what’s really important in any business practice, especially ours. It may seem that there are many options and many experienced and skilled professionals out there to choose from. When we look a little closer, though, we quickly realize that we come across one-of-a-kind practitioners. They found their true calling and know how to take care of their clients with a personal touch. It’s been an eye-opening and refreshing experience to work with so many beautiful businesses all around this year. It made me wonder what we can do to cherish further and nurture the personal touch that we aspire to offer here at Sicart Associates. It’s been an ongoing effort of the whole team: François Sicart, Patsy Jaganath, Allen Huang, Bogumil Baranowski, Douglas Rankin, Diandra Ramsammy, and Delphine Chevalier, who helps us navigate the time zones from Paris.

Thank you for your trust, support, and confidence in our ability to navigate these turbulent markets. We greatly appreciate it. During these trying times, knowing your clients and knowing your money manager matters more than ever. Thank you for letting us be a part of your journey. It’s an honor, privilege, and pleasure.

As we often like to sign off saying: We are always here if you need us!

 

Bogumil Baranowski

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The information provided in this article represents the opinions of Sicart Associates, LLC (“Sicart”) and is expressed as of the date hereof and is subject to change. Sicart assumes no obligation to update or otherwise revise our opinions or this article. The observations and views expressed herein may be changed by Sicart at any time without notice.

This article is not intended to be a clientspecific suitability analysis or recommendation, an offer to participate in any investment, or a recommendation to buy, hold or sell securities. Do not use this report as the sole basis for investment decisions. Do not select an asset class or investment product based on performance alone. Consider all relevant information, including your existing portfolio, investment objectives, risk tolerance, liquidity needs and investment time horizon. This report is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to predict or guarantee the future performance of any individual security, market sector or the markets generally.